An application by a Birmingham-based haulage company for 10 HGVs has been refused by a traffic commissioner after he said there was “clear evidence” it was a phoenix operation.
West Midlands TC Nick Denton also described the conduct of former VRS Logistics director Ben Shepherd as “highly questionable, not to say bordering on the illegal and immoral” after he scrutinised the company application during a virtual public inquiry.
VRS Logistics had applied for an international operator licence and gave the name of the director as David Hall, although the contact name for correspondence was given as Shepherd, who had resigned as director of the business in January 2020.
Shepherd was also the director of a company called Envirotrans (UK), which held a licence for 10 HGVs, operated out of the same premises which VRS proposed to use, and entered liquidation in July 2020. Bank statements provided by VRS in support of its application showed that its entire funds had come from Envirotrans (UK). Concerned that VRS might be attempting to continue the same business as Envirotrans but free from the latter’s creditors, the TC called it to a video conference PI in Birmingham.
In a written decision, TC Denton said no-one attended the inquiry and attempts by his clerk in the days preceding the PI to reach the company proved fruitless. He also said public records showed the company had failed to declare that Hall had been replaced as director by Brenton Miller more than seven months previously.
Denton said: “There is clear evidence that this is a phoenix application, intended to sidestep the creditors of Envirotrans (UK). The operating centres, maintenance provider and number of vehicles applied for by VRS are the same as those on the Envirotrans (UK) Ltd licence. The two companies had the same registered address.”
The TC added: “The conduct of Mr Shepherd, in making a large loan from one of his companies - which he must have known was about to enter liquidation - to another, is highly questionable, not to say bordering on the illegal and immoral. It is not that of a person of good repute.”